Does Your Dog Beg for Food?
The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
Colleen Corrigan, Writer and Animal Enthusiast
From barking, to whimpering and whining and drooling, a dog’s begging tactics can be disruptive, confusing and even frustrating; yet begging can be very effective for the dog in getting what she wants. If they stare at our food long enough with those big, brown eyes looking oh so forlorn, or pant and pace back and forth throughout our dinnertime, or paw at us incessantly, they may just get a bite of that juicy steak.
Our cats and dogs learn to beg from us. Giving this form of attention when we are eating however, conditions them to expect it and become demanding. We cave, they get some food, and just like that — the begging behavior continues.
The good news is since we taught our furry companions to beg, then we can certainly teach them not to. Here are some methods we at Bark + Board recommend that can change your little beggar into a respectful companion who knows her table manners, so you can enjoy your meal in peace.
Don’t feed your dog from the table in the first place. When you bring a new dog into your home, start the relationship with the ground rule that the dog has her own food and will not be fed human food. It might be hard getting everyone in the house to agree. Sure, lots of kids–and grown ups–have slipped their unwanted vegetables to the family pooch. But if you don’t want a dog that begs, then everyone in your home must agree about this.
Besides, a lot of what we eat is not good for dogs. Telling your children and family that it could make your dog very sick or cause weight gain and health problems may help them to enforce the no feed rule with you.
Use the crate. As you work to break the begging habit and insure that other members of the household don’t feed your dog during mealtimes, you can try putting her in her crate away from where you are eating. This might be tough to do at first, but give yourself a break, acknowledge yourself for how well she is fed and cared for and that for the next 20 minutes or so while you eat, she will be just fine in her crate. Bark + Boarding carries a variety of crate sizes ranging from XS to XXL. Mention this column to get 15% off your new crate.
Ignore your dog. This is where your willpower comes in. Be kind and firm. Say “no” and then don’t engage with your dog or cat by looking at her or petting her no matter what she does. Before you eat, be sure your pet has food in her dish and take her to where it is so that she knows she can eat if she is really hungry enough.
Get a toy that dispenses treats. Providing a treat toy for your dog while you enjoy your own meal allows her to play and focus on getting to the goodies stashed inside. Your dog is happily distracted and you are training her to think of something else other than getting your attention while you nourish yourself. Want to get one for your pup? Grab one at Bark + Boarding. Mention this column and receive 25% off.
Be patient with your four-footed best friend, and with yourself during this learning curve. With consistency and willpower you can transform your beloved pet into a well mannered dog who will be much healthier and happier in the long run.